Getting to know the Griegs

Getting to know the Griegs – with a little help from Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was attending a musical gathering in Leipzig, in 1888, when his eyes were drawn to a fascinating couple coming into the room. He didn’t know who they were, but was overjoyed to receive an introduction when he finally discovered :



Edvard Grieg caught by the camera in 1888 – with his trademark moustache

…there entered the room a very short, middle-aged man, exceedingly fragile in appearance, with shoulders of unequal height, fair hair brushed back from his forehead, and a very slight, almost boyish, beard and moustache.

The features of this man’s face, whose appearance for some reason immediately awoke my sympathy, do not present anything particularly striking, since one could call them neither beautiful nor regular. But on the other hand he has exceptionally attractive, not too large blue eyes, which have an irresistibly enchanting quality about them and remind one of the glance of an innocent, charming child.

I rejoiced in the depths of my heart when we were mutually introduced… and it turned out that this personality which was so inexplicably sympathetic to me belonged to a musician whose warmly emotional music had long ago won my heart.

Nina Grieg
Nina Grieg with a hint of grey in her hair

Together with Grieg, there entered the room… a lady who was growing slightly grey and resembled him very closely in appearance, being just as small, fragile and sympathetic. She was his wife, and also his cousin, which explains the likeness.

Subsequently I was able to appreciate the many and precious qualities possessed by Madam Grieg. For a start, she turned out to be a splendid singer…

I have rarely met a more knowledgeable and educated woman… I was soon convinced that Madame Grieg was as amiable, as gentle, as childishly simple and without guile as her celebrated husband.


Author: Dr Sally LK Garden (Oct 2017)
Translations: Newmarch (1905) & Sundkvist (2009).